On Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban will not accept any extensions for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond August 31. Hours later in what appeared to be a response to Mujahid’s demands, a senior administration official told CNN that President Joe Biden is sticking to his August 31 deadline — despite earlier saying it could be extended if necessary.
Mujahid also said that the U.S. would be violating its agreement if it keeps troops in Afghanistan beyond August 31. On Monday, the Taliban threatened “consequences” and unspecified “actions” if U.S. troops remained past the deadline.
In July, President Biden had set August 31 as the deadline for the end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, however, last week Biden said U.S. troops could stay in Afghanistan beyond August 31 to facilitate the evacuations of any U.S. citizens still remaining in Afghanistan.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last Wednesday. He reiterated that possibility on Sunday in remarks delivered from the White House.
“Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” Biden said on Sunday.
Biden’s sudden shift to not extending the Augudeadline came after weighing the security risks of remaining in the country beyond the deadline, the administration official told CNN. The official said Biden has still asked for contingency plans in case he determines later on that the US needs to remain in the country beyond that date.
Mujahid said on Tuesday, “It is their plan, it is the American plan.”
“This was already not according to their agreement,” Mujahid said, referring to a prior agreement brought forth under President Donald Trump, that set May 1 as the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.
“They have opportunity. They have all the resources. They can take all the people that belong to them,” Mujahid said. “We are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline.”
Mujahid’s rejection of any extension of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline comes a day after another Taliban spokesman, Dr. Suhail Shaheen, said August 31 is “a red line.”
“President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces,” Shaheen said. “So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that. If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”
Biden met with leaders from the Group of 7 (G7) and CNN reported he will deliver public remarks later on Tuesday.